It is scary to think of cyber warfare and how it may affect us. But the reality is there, and we should be prepared. I was chatting with a colleague this morning who asked for the top two things to do to prepare for a massive cyber-attack. I started thinking about this when I was having lunch at a small restaurant during a Noreaster with no snow, but high winds. We ordered, our food arrived, and the electricity in the restaurant and surrounding area went out. The restaurant didn’t have a generator, and the restaurant’s credit card machine didn’t work. Of the six tables of people dining in the restaurant, I was the only one with enough cash (a mere $40) to pay for lunch. The owner went table to table and wrote people’s credit card numbers, including CVVs down on a piece of paper and said he would charge them when he was back up and running. I was cringing the whole time; it illustrated for me that most people have no cash and rely on plastic methods of payment.

I liken preparing for a massive cyber-attack to preparing for a massive electrical outage, like a natural disaster, but adding a disruption to everything else in the mix, like internet service and payment processing. What do you do to prepare for a hurricane or other natural disaster that disrupts both electricity and internet service? You want to have items that will assist you with activities of daily living while certain services and amenities may be closed or unavailable. A generator helps, but some food, water, energy backups, batteries, candles, and blankets come to most people’s minds when contemplating a natural disaster. To these items, for a cyber-attack, I add cash. Everyone needs some cash if there is a widespread attack on the energy grid, internet services providers, or the financial services industry. Think about if you can’t go to an ATM, can’t use a debit or credit card, or can’t go online or use payment apps. How will you purchase items you need to weather through the cyber storm? Think about everything that is connected to the internet and what you would need if the internet was down for a week.

Cash allows you to buy items such as food, water and gasoline for your car in the event you can’t use a credit or debit card or payment apps during an attack. I find that most people do not carry any cash on a daily basis, nor do they have any emergency cash on hand. To prepare, think about what you might need for a week or two, and get some emergency cash. Just don’t stash it under your mattress!